A kiva holiday gift card.
“Just send money” may be an oft-attributed young adult phrase, especially around the holidays, but several companies are now helping gift-givers do just that.
And instead of sending someone a check that may never be put toward its intended purpose, online companies such as GradSave and Kiva have systems in place that let you make direct donations to a child’s 529 college savings plan or a microloan.
Both offer gift cards that are catching on as alternatives to traditional holiday gifts.
GradSave has seen a “drastic increase” in gift card purchases in the past month, says spokeswoman Samantha McShine. The site links to members’ 529 college savings plans and offers digital and physical gift cards that come with redemption codes that recipients enter online to transfer the money.
Natasha Duwin, 46, set up GradSave accounts for both her sons, ages 5 and 7, a couple months ago and is asking relatives to give GradSave gift cards instead of toys for Christmas this year.
GradSave is trying to help parents “start saving as soon as possible,” says CEO Marcos Cordero, who calls the cards a “meaningful stocking stuffer.”
Other sites, such as Kiva, let you give microloans through gift cards starting at $25. Microloans go to low-income borrowers and entrepreneurs, often from foreign countries, to help them start or maintain businesses. Card recipients browse through online profiles to choose to whom to lend.
Since the start of November, Kiva has sold more than 18,000 gift cards. Last year, Kiva Card purchases made during the holiday season made up 60% of the total value of all cards purchased in 2011, says spokesman Jason Riggs.
This is the third year Tom Shalvarjian will give Kiva Cards to family friends for the holidays.
“It’s something that continues to involve them in the gift,” he says of the cards. Once Kiva loans are repayed by the borrower, the loan can go to someone else, making the process a continuous cycle.
Other sites are popping up to help student-loan borrowers take donations from family or friends. For the holidays Ellie Norris, 31, is asking family to donate to her and her husband’s accounts on Lily’s List, a website that links to members’ student-loan accounts.
“That’s a way better gift for me personally than anything you could buy at the store,” says Norris, who works as an occupational therapist in Dallas.
And that’s why monetary donations for loans or college savings are becoming popular, Cordero says.
“People want to be able to give gifts that last,” he says, “that are momentous.”
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